Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Daily Hump: (Sea) Hag

As the title of this post suggests my particular interest in hags is with the sea variety. Anyone who has ever watched a Popeye cartoon is familiar with the Sea Hag; she's the tall witchy woman with a vulture for a familiar who suffers an unrequited crush on the our favorite roid-raged sailor. It's kind of pathetic, really. But I experienced no such empathy as a child; I just thought the Sea Hag was creepy and awesome in the way only nautical rapscallions can be (evidence: a, b and c).

Hag is a shortened form of the Old English hægtesse meaning "witch, fury." The word can be traced further back to the Proto-Germanic *hagatusjon-. The Middle Dutch cognate, haghetisse, was also shorted to form the German Hexe, meaning "witch;" and it's via the Amish we got our English hex. Now, here's where things get crazy:
[Hag's first] element is probably cognate with [Old English] haga "enclosure" [which is related to our modern hedge]...Or second element may be connected with [Norwegian} tysja "fairy, crippled woman"...from PIE *dhewes- "to fly about, smoke, be scattered, vanish."...Haga is also the haw- in hawthorn, which is a central plant in northern European pagan religion. There may be several layers of folk-etymology here. If the hægtesse was once a powerful supernatural woman..., it may have originally carried the hawthorn sense. Later, when the pagan magic was reduced to local scatterings, it might have had the sense of "hedge-rider," or "she who straddles the hedge," because the hedge was the boundary between the "civilized" world of the village and the wild world beyond. The hægtesse would have a foot in each reality...
Sea hag [TV Acres]
hag [Online Etymology Dictionary]
hex [Online Etymology Dictionary]
Häxan [IMDB.com]
The Dreams in the Witch House [Wikipedia]

Labels: , , , , , , ,

:: posted by David, 8:01 AM


Add a comment